Android Corner: Retail Debut Of The OUYA Game Console

Ouya review

The Outa game console

No.  No No No No No No No No No.  That is the word I keep hearing all around the net.  With all the buzz that continues to surround Ouya, many of it is highly negative.  From early backers of the Kickstarter campaign still not receiving their consoles (I did receive mine on time), to interface issues such as overscan/underscan.  To Ouya’s credit, they are communicating quickly and as fast as they can, but the responses seem to be more finger pointing at DHL Hong Kong (which was a bad* idea in and of itself), among other things.  Despite all these issues, how does it far up?  Well, since I have had the console for quite some time already, I have had plenty of time to put it through the ringer.  Allow me to discuss the pros and cons of this “promising” console…

Read on:

Let’s start out positive!  The Pros…

The console

The console does have a lot going for it, especially on paper.  With a powerful Tegra 3 processor pushing “decent” 1080p in such a a small package (it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand), video and games that properly utilize the console run great.  The console’s makeup is pretty solid, and the controller has all the basic functions you would want, including a touchpad at the top of the controller itself.  The top of the controller has a magnetic lid that hides the batteries, not elegant in its removal, but works for me.  On the rear of the console you have standard HDMI, 2 USB ports, and audio outputs.  One simple button powers on the console, or by the controller itself being activated.  The HDMI cable is included.

The interface

Not much is special here, but I will say it works.  There is room for improvement, but the basic functions work.  I will hold my tongue till later on for the rest of this section.

The games

There are several games that have been created, but that is not its shining point.  The game emulators that run on the Ouyarun well, amazingly so.  That is where the action is right now.  The console is still very early, so give it some time.  It is not down for the count yet.  At least I hope that is the case.

Other uses

On of the alternative uses for the Ouya, especially at an early time while other aspects mature, is running non-standard software such as XBMC.  XBMC runs very* well on the Ouya, and if XBMC does all that you need, this is the perfect HTPC, and if anything succeeds for the Ouya, it will be that purpose.  Sure, there are other small boxes just like the Ouyathat do XBMC, with better remotes included, but it details how the Ouyawill never be a total loss in that sense.  Since the Ouya is based off Android and the Linux kernel, you can run a plethora of software, even if it is not optimized to run on the Ouya.  Software apps such as TuneIn and Spotify ran quite fine for me.

The UGLY.  Ouya Cons…

The console

The console itself in its design isn’t too bad, the controller on the other hand, is abysmal.   I really wanted to like it, I really did, but it just isn’t doing it for me.  Thankfully you can attach other USB/Bluetooth controllers fine.  The biggest issue for me is the feel of the controller.  Unlike the comfortable Xbox 360 controller, it just doesn’t conform to the contours of the human hand.  The shoulder buttons and triggers are on a flat 90 degree angle with the top of the controller, resulting in an awkward holding position to use them.  I can deal with this, but just shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  The trackpad works OK, but not all the time, but is a nice afterthought and useful sometimes.  One of my and others biggest gripes?  Overscan.  Simply put, the overscan/underscan disability of the console for a huge portion of users is awful.  If you are lucky enough that your TV manufacturer has some nice tricks up its sleeve to adjust this, great.  My 2009 era Sony TV?  Not so much.  My TV’s sizing options just didn’t give it the kick in the pants it needed, and the option in the Ouya menu to compensate for this flaw, just plain doesn’t work.  Some also complain that the buttons get stuck under the controller faceplate, which has happened to me a few times, but not enough to be a huge problem.

The interface

The interface…Let’s just get this out in the open, its atrocious.  It’s slow, too basic, and lacks polish.  Graphics support and benchmark scores for its graphical performance are subpar.  There is time for it to improve, and it likely will, but not a great start.  Thankfully updating an Android console should be a simple affair.  I had big issues, which annoyed me to no end, when installing alterntive software in the “Make” section.  Every* time I would enter that menu, the default action would prompt me that I do not have something installed (related to development), hitting ok worked, so that I could go to my alternative applications.  A minor hiccup that really annoyed me.  The overscan also really torked me off when using the browser and settings menu, but that is something that hopefully will be fixed.

The Games

Here is another huge downside.  The Ouya’s native games, just don’t have a set of killer titles that define the console.  The console is still in early stages from its retail release, but, the launch titles are what defines the console, and they are just not there.  The emulators and manual .apk game installs fill the gap, but this is something average users won’t get or don’t realize they can do.  The controller support on some games, especially those ported from mobile varieties of Android, can be just inconsistent, especially on controller lag.

Alternative Uses

All the above aside, and given the consoles software intentions, promised “alternative” software is just not there yet.  This includes official support for many emulators  as well as XBMC.  Early on, support was announced for OnLive, but we all know how that turned out.  There is a lot of potential for this area, but it’s just not there yet

The verdict: 6 months of community service!

Ouya has TONS of promise, it really does.  But, it’s disastrous start is enough to even hurt early backers and philosophical  proponents of Linux and Open Source, such as myself.  I am still holding out hope for this little guy, but my initial enthusiasm has waned quite a bit.  For Non-Backers of the Kickstarter campaign, I can only assume these frustrations and thoughts are amplified.  So, in summary, Ouya is not doomed, but it has a LOT to catch up on, and lots of broken dreams to mend.  I do regard the console as a very important step in console gaming, at time when many are losing faith in the traditional game console companies (cough* Microsoft).

So what are YOUR thoughts?  Questions?  Comments?  Leave them below.



About professorkaos64

Posted on 20130626, in Android, Featured articles and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Kevin Smith

    This is one of the topics I’ve been wanting to write about lately. The OUYA is a great device for what it is, but it is NOT a Next-Gen console, and that’s what a lot of people seem to be getting wrong. It was never supposed to have superior graphics. The hardware it has is decent for Android and is designed to be upgradable, but it will never compete with systems from Sony and MS.

    It IS supposed to be a highly modifiable Android console that can be connected to your TV and act as both a basic gaming system and cheap[price] Home Theater Interface. I think it accomplishes this purpose and will improve significantly as time goes on.

    However, I do not think it should have been released in stores until more things were ironed out. The interface is VERY basic. It has gotten significantly faster since I first received the console via the kickstarter bid, but it still looks and acts very basic. The games are currently “meh” for the most part. There are some good games available, but not very many “killer” launch titles. Emulators and ROMs definitely help fill the gap, but the average store-bought OUYA customer most likely won’t know how to get and run ROMs…and advice on the matter can be foggy in terms of legality. The controller feels nice, but you will run into a LOT of issues with buttons getting stuck, if you are a button masher (like myself). Side-loading Apps help fill the gap as well, but the location of the browser and the lack of a decent pre-installed file manager is going to throw off a lot of those store-bought OUYA customers.

    The OUYA does, however, make a great Home Theater device. XBMC is currently only side-loadable, but runs great if you know what you are doing. Plex just released their OUYA specific App today, and I have heard GREAT things about it (will try it out when I get home). The side-loaded Plex app I used in the past worked very well, so I can’t wait to see what this one does.

    Overall, I am very happy with my OUYA. The OUYA company is very new and has a lot to learn, but I think they have done well under the circumstances. However, the console still has a way to go and I truly hope–that what I consider to be an early launch–does not destroy the potential that this console has for future development.

    • professorkaos64

      I think the main problem is the difference between what people expected , and what they received, that has contributed the most hurt in this situation.

      • Kevin Smith

        Unfortunately, a lot of people’s expectations were far different than what was promised. That said, Ouya definitely messed up on a lot of fronts. The Ouya team should never have released to stores before EVERYONE that had helped fund them had received their devices.

        This would have aided on two fronts:
        1.) People would have been rewarded for helping
        2.) The system could have been thoroughly tested before being released to the general public. The system still has a lot of flaws. Beta testers, like those that help fund it, would have severely cut down on those flaws.

        Another area that needs work is the Ouya’s “Hacker-friendly” statement. A device maintainer for CyanogenMod recently posted about his trip down “hacker” lane on the Ouya:

        Basically, there is no recovery mode (or at least not an easy to locate one) and the above CyanogenMod maintainer was told by Ouya that he was not ‘qualified’ to ‘hack’ his device.

        So, if someone on the CyanogenMod team is not qualified to ‘hack’ his Ouya…who the hell is qualified??

      • professorkaos64

        Interesting response to a CM dev, that is wildly uncalled for.

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